WALPACK — Despite continued efforts by volunteers and park rangers to maintain the historical buildings in the Walpack Center over the years, vandals continue to destroy not only what is left of it, but have destroyed memories that volunteers have sought to preserve for decades.
Quiet, quaint Walpack Center, a strip of buildings on Main Street, was served a crippling blow when the proposed Tocks Island Project forced residents out and destroyed their homes. The project never happened, but the harm it caused to the small, 24-square-mile town was irreparable.
But still standing were several buildings along the strip of roadway in Walpack, which includes an 1893 one-room schoolhouse, a post office that closed in 1958, the Walpack Methodist Church, built in 1872, and the Rosenkrans House and Museum, built in 1850 and used as a small museum and as the headquarters for the Walpack Historical Society.
The society, along with the National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over the area, have worked to maintain and preserve the history of each building.
But vandals continue their destruction, with three incidents of damage reported last week, according to Kathleen Sandt, public affairs specialist for the National Park Service, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The incidents are among a dozen that have taken place within the confines of the park, from Montague south to Walpack, since March 13.
"The dedicated volunteers with the Walpack Historical Society put in countless hours of hard work to maintain and preserve these buildings so that the history and ways of life of those who lived in Walpack can be shared with future generations," Sandt said.
The Walpack Historical Society have documented the destruction on its Facebook page, with the old Environmental Education Center, which closed in 2003, "absolutely ransacked by vandals." A large tree limb, shown in photos posted on the society’s page, was thrown through a window at the old Batten Creamery.
Vandals kicked in the door of the Walpack Post Office and General Store, where a photo shows the inside was searched and another attempt was made to break the back door of the Rosenkrans House. The Robbins Barn, located just across from the Rosenkrans House, was also breached.
The society said they are working closely with park rangers, who have been responsive to their concerns and pleas for help to fight the constant vandalism the center has endured.
"Wanton destruction of invaluable and irreplaceable history is completely unacceptable and repulsive," the society wrote in a joint statement.
But it’s tough to monitor each building at all hours of the day and night, the society said. The society has now installed surveillance cameras that have been donated in various locations and more will be added.
Jeff Stoveken, a trustee with the Walpack Historical Society, said teams of volunteers are "watching over the property and the village itself" and vowed that those responsible will be held accountable.
Stoveken has posted several photos of the Walpack Center in the dark while on "night watch," with Main Street illuminated only by the moon.
The society noted that many have asked how they can help. While they don’t want people to break Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders to stay home during the coronavirus epidemic, they have asked those who enjoy the park to keep an eye out for suspicious behavior.
"Our history is precious and our parks belong to everyone," they stated. "Every time vandalism and destruction occurs, a piece of our past is stolen from us forever."
The society has asked anyone who can, in addition to donating surveillance cameras, to donate batteries for the cameras. For further information on what is needed, post a comment or reach out to the society on their Facebook page: www.Facebook.com/Walpackhistory.
Monetary donations to the non-profit are also welcome and can be mailed to: Walpack Historical Society, P.O. Box 212, Layton, NJ 07851.
Sandt said that anyone who may have information about any of the acts of vandalism can anonymously leave a tip via email or text with the National Park SErvice Investigative Services Branch at 888-653-0009. Tips can also be left via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or online: https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1563/submit-a-tip.htm.
Lori Comstock can also be reached on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH, on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LoriComstockNJH or by phone: 973-383-1194.